Zapier Approval Workflow with Slack Alerts

Have you ever been afraid of automating something in Zapier because you’re afraid of the consequences if the zap ran without manual oversight? Now you can put that worry to bed thanks to the Zapier approval action, which will pause your zap until a manual review has been conducted and the zap has been approved to progress. So whether it is automating your social media posting, sending SMS notifications to your customers, or merging leads you can now do this in confidence.

Have you ever been afraid of automating something in Zapier because you’re afraid of the consequences if the zap ran without manual oversight? Now you can put that worry to bed thanks to the Zapier approval action, which will pause your zap until a manual review has been conducted and the zap has been approved to progress. So whether it is automating your social media posting, sending SMS notifications to your customers, or merging leads you can now do this in confidence.

This post will walk you through how to implement the Zapier approval action into your workflow by using the example of a lead merging workflow from the Marketo Merge Automatically with Zapier post. Since important information can be lost when merging leads it is important to make sure that the correct field values get prioritized when there are field value conflicts between leads being merged. This is where the Zapier approval action will swoop in to the rescue!

Duplicate Merging Overview

Zapier actions preparing for lead merging
Zapier actions preparing for lead merging

This automatic merging zap is triggered whenever a duplicate lead is created in Marketo. Whenever this happens the subsequent steps will get the desired field values for the set of duplicates and then decide which field values should win in the case of field value conflicts between the leads.

The output of Step 4. are two dictionaries field_dict and final_dict, where field_dict contains the values for every lead for the fields being compared and final_dict contains the winning value for each field. It is these 2 dictionaries that are passed to the Zapier approval action in Step 8 to ensure that the Python logic has determined the correct winning values for each field.

If you want more detail on these 4 steps then take a look at the Marketo Merge Automatically with Zapier post.

Zapier Approval Notifications

Zapier approval notifications overview
Zapier approval notifications overview

One important thing to note is that any approval notifications you want to have must be BEFORE the approval step. Since the zap is paused at the approval step if you were to put these notification steps after the approval step then you would only be notified once the manual approval has been made, which defeats the purpose of having these notifications in the first place.

Each of the notifications below contains a link to the Zapier approval inbox for this merging zap, which will bring the user to all the paused iterations of this zap that are waiting for approval. This inbox link is obtained from the Zapier approval action in Step 8. by clicking the “Copy Link” button in the “Set up action” section (see image in the “Zapier Approval Setup” section below).

N.B. If you want more information about how to get set up with the Telnyx app on Zapier for sending SMS then take a look at the Marketo 2 Way SMS using Telnyx and Zapier post.

Slack notification
Zapier approval Slack notification
Email by Zapier notification
Zapier approval email notification
SMS notification using the Telnyx app
Zapier approval SMS notification

Zapier Approval Workflow

Zapier approval workflow overview
Zapier approval workflow overview

Zapier Approval Setup

Zapier approval action setup
Zapier approval action setup

After selecting the “Create Approval” action event from the “Approval by Zapier” app, then select the 2 dictionaries from Step 4. in the “Set up action” section so that they will be displayed for review in the approval inbox. You can also change the corresponding action for the “Thumbs Down” icon from the “stop the Zap” default option to either “continue the Zap” or “raise a ‘soft’ halted error”.

Personally, I do not see the point in having the “continue the Zap” option since the “Thumbs Up” icon already allows the zap to progress. The “raise a ‘soft’ halted error” option is different from the “stop the Zap” option because this will allow you to re-run the zap from this approval action at some point in the future, although I cannot see a use case for this at the moment either. In a nutshell, stick with the default “stop the Zap” action!

Once a member of your team receives the Slack, Email, or SMS notification and clicks the link leading to the approval inbox then they will be greeted by all paused iterations of this merging zap. Then the reviewer should take a look at the different lead values for each field in the field_dict string and then see which value was selected as the winner for this field in the final_dict string.

N.B. If you want to see what the approval inbox will look like when populated with approval requests then take a look at the Zapier demo video at around the 4:50 minute mark.

If all the winning field values have been selected correctly then clicking the “Thumbs Up” icon will allow the zap to progress to the merging and update steps below. In the case that there are one or more values in the final_dict string that should not have been the winning field value then clicking the “Thumbs Down” icon will stop the zap.

Unfortunately, Zapier does not allow you to manually modify any of the values displayed in the approval process. If modification was allowed then you could modify the final_dict string and then click the “Thumbs Up” icon for the zap to proceed but as it stands you’ll have to stop the zap and then manually merge the leads in Marketo.

Post Approval Actions

Once given the all-clear, Step 9 will merge the leads and Step 10 will update the winning lead with the winning field values stored in final_dict. If you want more detail on these 2 steps then take a look at the Marketo Merge Automatically with Zapier post.

In these 2 actions notice how the field_dict and final_dict values are pulled in from the Zapier approval action in Step 8 rather than the “Select Winning Field Values” action in Step 4. This makes Step 9. and Step 10. dependent on the approval action so that if the zap is stopped in the manual review then these subsequent steps will also be stopped.

If there were any other steps after the approval action that did not use the output from this approval action then these steps would still have run even if the “Thumbs Down” icon was selected in the review.

Merge action using output from Zapier approval action
Merge action using output from Zapier approval action
Update lead action using output from Zapier approval action
Update lead action using output from Zapier approval action

Zapier Approval Limitations

The following three limitations were already addressed in the post so if you want more context on these limitations then take a look at the section they were mentioned in above:

  • It is not possible to manually modify any of the values displayed in the approval process [“Zapier Approval Setup” section]
  • Only steps after the approval action that use data from the approval action will be stopped if the zap is stopped in the approval process, all other steps will still run [“Post Approval Actions” section]
  • It is not possible to get automatic alerts for pending approvals but you can create your own alerts [“Zapier Approval Notifications” section]

Other limitations specified by the Zapier team are that:

  • It is not possible to view all pending approvals in a single inbox, you have to go to the inbox of every zap with an approval action to see the pending approvals for that zap
  • There could be some issues when moving zaps with approval actions between teams, folders, or users

What’s Next?

Now that you have gotten the hang of the Zapier approval action see what other workflows you can build it into or what you can now automate for the first time with the confidence of knowing you can always review this zap before it takes important actions.

Here are 2 posts for inspiration:

If you are instead eager to learn more and add a new tool to your Zapier belt then check out the Sub-Zap by Zapier Quick-Start Guide to learn how to take all those grouped actions that you use repeatedly across your zaps and put them in a single sub-zap that you can then request from any other zap in Zapier.


Automating with APIs, Python, Zapier, and Google Scripts 

Former engineer turned marketing operations lead who loves to get down and dirty with the Marketo API, Python, Zapier, and Google Scripts.

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